Dignity for Puerto Rico

The 3.7 million people of the island of Puerto Rico have endured two recent, major earthquakes, and thousands of aftershocks since December twenty-eighth.

The largest earthquake slammed the southern region registering 6.4 on the Richter scale January seventh.  Another magnitude 5.9 rocked Puerto Rico on January twelfth.

Tens of thousands are sleeping outdoors or under tarps for fear of buildings collapsing. Many have lost their homes entirely. Schools cannot operate until there is certainty of the safety of the structures. Power is intermittent and refugee camps lack basic hygienic needs. Medicine is also in short supply.  This all comes on the heels of the deadliest hurricane, Maria, to hit the island in 2017 destroying infrastructure and killing over 3,000 people.

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Congress had allocated $18 billion to help with natural disaster readiness following the devastation of Maria. HUD should have dispersed these funds in 2018, but the Trump Administration refused the aid citing “fiscal mismanagement”. FEMA is on the ground and trying to help. No mismanagement has been documented or proven.

The withholding of aid to those urgently in need has been cited as “illegal” and “unconscionable” by members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats.  They have repeatedly requested the administration release the already appropriated funds. Their demands have largely been ignored. While writing this I have learned that 8 million of the 18 billion are now being released.  It is a pittance towards the need.

The blatant disregard for life has become a hallmark of the Trump Administration. What will it take to call back the compassion that we have so willingly relinquished?

Unity for what is decent is required now. Dignity for those struggling in Puerto Rico is what is needed. A government of, for and by the people is not too much to ask.

Moral Compass Derailed

While the pundits debate, the facts are undeniable. Worldwide militarism and nationalism lead the way. From the new “Christian” leadership in Bolivia destroying a decade of indigenous progress to the Republic of China proving the Hong Kong dissidents are correct in their concerns, the world seems embroiled in hatred and fear. And while the press offers us the winners and losers, there are few who comment on what is really at stake.

There are no winners. It’s as if the entire human race has lost its collective mind. If the mindset of superiority and control wins, we all lose. Let’s be real: we’re all sick. We are sick of greed, sick with power, sick with envy, sick of hatred. Our moral compass has been derailed.

The late poet and activist John Trudell spoke of this as a virus of the human race. I think he had it right. And we have tolerated this virus for far too long.

Among Andean people there is a ceremony to bring oneself or one’s community back to balance. It’s a beautiful prayer calling back our higher visions and fragmented selves. The request is made that our words, thoughts and emotions be clear and free. There is a request to walk in beauty on the earth with integrity and love. The ceremony is done with the complete recognition that we are capable of being whole. It’s done with trust in what is possible.

Whatever a human being conceives of or dreams is within reach. And I suggest to you that we must each take a step towards the dream of peace in our lives. Leaders have left us bankrupt in the ways of the heart and it can only be the ways of the heart that will set us free.

Today can be a new day. The choice is ours.

 

Thanks to WDRT for continuing to air “Consider This” every Thursday at 5:30 pm CST.

More on the derailing of our moral compass.

Photo: flag of peace – wikipedia commons.

Honoring Heroes

It’s the fourth of July and some people will mark this day with beer, burgers and brats. Others will shy away from fireworks and large crowds, still hampered by PTSD and the ravages of war. Still others will be hard at work on farms beleaguered by heavy rains and an unpredictable growing season.

And some will be trying to turn the tide of the environmental and human disasters looming on the horizon.

Acts of love for this land and its people are made everyday. From water protectors living in treetops to rural elders demanding regulations on sand mining, people everywhere are discovering that love of place is critical to our survival.

On July fourth, we are called upon to show our love and respect for our country. We honor our warriors and we praise their devotion to freedom. And that is as it should be. But make no mistake: those who stand for clean water and those protecting our air are among our greatest patriots. As are the people on the border and around the country who demand that asylum seekers be treated with dignity and respect.

And you can add to the list of heroes the local people fighting to preserve our pristine hills from unnecessary transmission lines and cell towers.  These heroes are utilizing their love and effort to preserve this land we call home. So when you bow to the heroes who have fought in endless wars, remember too, the individuals who are fighting a different kind of war. They are fighting battles against ignorance and greed. They are fighting to give our children freedom from disease by preserving the right to clean air and water. And they are protecting human dignity as they refuse to accept our government’s inhumanity. Let us celebrate these heroes. And let’s find a way to help them.

 

 Comment online to the PSC regarding the Cardinal Hickory Creek transmission lines has been extended to July 7.

photo: Wikipedia Commons 

“Protect Us”

“Protect us”. This was the consensus of Monroe County citizens as they faced their County Board in a zoning hearing on June 17. Over thirty people exercised that right. They came to request that a moratorium on nonmetallic mining be on the agenda. They spoke with impassioned and carefully articulated facts. They spoke about the unchecked increase in the size and scope of mining around their communities. They spoke about real and observed health risks, particularly to children. They told of love of land and of community and refused to accept the new norm.

They shredded the “we bring jobs and money” arguments of the corporate representatives. Their response was unwavering. Jobs can be found elsewhere and the pittance of money will not bring back health or return the natural beauty of this region.

When he finally spoke the Board chair expressed that yes, it was true, there were no laws in place, no ordinances, no considerations of health and well being when mining was allowed in their county. And while he acknowledged something must be done, he stopped short of allowing the requested moratorium. The moratorium would have excluded current operations, and allow citizens the time to become informed before having a referendum.

Instead he politely bowed to the mining representatives. His deference to them and his inability to be swayed by the citizens were obvious.

It appears it will take more than common sense, more than historical and scientific facts to undue the ignorance of the few, who made closed door deals, and allowed unchecked nonmetallic mining in the area.

It will take the unwavering voice of “we the People”. And from what I can tell the citizens of Monroe County are stepping up to the task.

 

Read more on Community Rights nationwide. Or at CELDF – Community Rights Movement

 

 

Transgender Violence

I remember when the Berlin wall came down and someone posed the question, “Whom will they hate next?” I remember squirming a bit as I realized targets of hate are people who are different.

It has been fifty years since the Stonewall Riots, which launched the modern Gay Rights movement. At that time the term “gay” covered it all. Many lesbians, gays and bi-sexuals now enjoy status quo lifestyles. Many attend churches and synagogues that are accepting of “gay” life. Some hold public office and climb the corporate ladder. And then there are those who do not fit so neatly into straight packages.

June is Pride Month and it began in New York’s Stonewall Inn with trans people leading the charge to end police brutality and harassment. And while much has changed since 1969, many are left behind in the push for equal and human rights.

People, who define themselves as transgender, questioning or two spirit, are too often marginalized by race, gender and socio-economic disparity.  It is a systemic issue based in prejudice and ignorance, leaving some at the mercy of human trafficking and survival sex work.

Young, indigenous and black transgender face some of the highest suicide and murder rates in the world. Violence and harassment are epidemic.

Many transgender migrants, who seek asylum, have been punished with solitary confinement and denied health care by our government.

In a dominant culture that fears the “other,” transgender people are persecuted for being different. Indigenous people are often the very first to defend their humanity.

It is time for people of faith to set aside their fear of “sin” and their judgment of right and wrong in order to conquer the greater evil, which is hate. And the LGB community needs to step up the fight for human rights for all of us.

This lack of humanity must end.

 

 

This transgender flag* from Wikimedia Commons: The Transgender Pride flag was designed by Monica Helms, and was first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in 2000.

The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes, two light blue, two pink, with a white stripe in the center.

Monica describes the meaning of the flag as follows:

“The light blue is the traditional color for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersexed. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives”.

*Unlike the wider LGBT communities worldwide which have adopted the Rainbow flag, the various transgender individuals, organizations and communities around the world have not coalesced around one single flag design.

 

Rethinking Genocide

Dominant cultures share common threads. They forcibly and systematically destroy cultures and peoples who are different. They do this by killing and torturing, separating children from families, forcing indoctrination on the young, and by the rape and murder of women and girls. They do it with swift first strikes and then gradually through police tactics, court injustice, social crimes and environmental destruction. The governments of these dominant cultures carry on the atrocities for generations. Education and religion are used to maintain the status quo and to create an illusion that “all is as it should be.”

Since WWII we have termed this cultural and human destruction as genocide. In 1948, the Untied Nations created the legal definition of what was then coined the “crime of crimes”.

Ideas take time to take hold. This week dominant culture took a blow with the release of Canada’s National Inquiry into the epidemic of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.  Exhaustive studies and final conclusions prepared by professional Indigenous women were presented to the Canadian government.

Within the findings is the declaration that the Canadian government by omission and commission engaged in the genocide of Indigenous people.

As one survivor put it, “You can’t un-hear the truth.”

Here are a few words from the final damning report: “These violations amount to nothing less than the deliberate, often covert campaign of genocide against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual] people.”

Humankind must find a way to end the perpetuation of violence on Indigenous peoples.  Dominant cultures everywhere must grapple with the racist and sexist attitudes that are upheld throughout their systems and policies. The United States has developed an institutionalized apathy that needs to be challenged.

Kudos to all who are fighting this inhuman disease however you are called to do so.

 

For more on the report and its findings and to give credit for the photo used visit Eagle Feather News.

On Soundcloud. Thanks to WDRT for airing “Consider This.”

Dependency

The Amish had it right. They did not want to become dependent on electricity. It wasn’t to make their lives harder. It was to not become dependent on a government or any other body who would seek to rob their independence or their character.

I have been thinking of this a lot lately as I weigh the urgent need for immigration reform in this country. There are many people who do not want to live in the United States, but would like to work here for a while and return to their countries of origin.

Considering labor shortages on farms and elsewhere, this would make good sense. But the current short-term work programs are severely outdated. Even the George W. Bush Center’s website, “A Nation Built by Immigrants” suggests the need for new worker programs.

Instead the current administration urges us to fear these people. We are encouraged to ignore our sense of humanity and continue to allow the separation of children from parents, overcrowded and dehumanizing detention centers, and perhaps worst of all, we ignore simple solutions because of our fear.

Creating humane worker programs would be one solution. Another would be to remove United States military from these countries, and instead offer aid to help them rebuild.

Many of the immigrants and asylum seekers are being forced from their homelands and ways of life because of extraction of resources – resources that our government and military pay heavily to protect. This “protection” has in recent years cost the lives of numerous environmental activists trying to protect their homelands and their communities.

No, it is not the immigrants we should fear; it is our ignorance. We must move towards becoming citizens of the world and realize how our choices directly affect others. Let us end our dependency on stolen resources protected by blood money. On this, the Amish had it right.